“Fear Allah,” the woman was advised by the local imam upon seeking a khula’ from her husband. “Marriage is serious. Don’t you know that a woman who divorces her husband for no reason will not even smell Paradise?”
The words fell upon the woman like a prison sentence. She had been married for almost ten years, but she didn’t know if she could take it anymore. She couldn’t remember the last time she even opened the Qur’an. She barely paid attention in prayer. She was no longer motivated to even raise her hands in supplication to Allah…because she believed that what she truly desired—peace of mind, some semblance of marital security, and a home where the husband’s other wife didn’t live down the hall—made her a bad Muslim. So she “feared Allah,” telling herself to be patient with what Allah decreed…
In reflecting on the fact that all humans—men and women—must stand before Allah on the Day of Judgment and answer for their conduct in this world, I thank Allah that I am a woman. It’s not that I imagine that women on a whole exhibit better behavior than men. It’s just that if a woman were to pick up an Islamic book on marriage, listen to an Islamic lecture about the roles of spouses, or seek the advice of a local imam for her marital struggles, she often is not left guessing: Her primary responsibility lies in serving her family and pleasing her husband. The message may rarely come packaged in the way the Sunnah requires (i.e. with kindness and empathy), but it is unambiguous nonetheless. Thus, even from worldly sources, a woman’s code of conduct is laid out quite clearly, with little to no “wiggle room.”
Unfortunately, however, this sometimes translates into women being denied their rights, as in the tragic example above, and this is something that troubles me deeply and for which I cannot even pretend to see the silver lining.
Yet, for the man, the situation is quite different…
No, it’s not correct to casually chat with non-mahram women, but if you hope to guide her to Islam…
No, you shouldn’t look at pictures of uncovered women, but if you would like to marry her…
Yes, you should allow your wife to go to the masjid if she likes, but if you fear a greater harm…
Don’t get me wrong. I realize that there are definitely times when something that is generally permissible may become forbidden, and when something that is generally forbidden may become permissible. I’m only saying that the “justified advice” that is popular today—which usually comes from well-meaning laymen to women under their care—very often leans in one direction: that which favors the desires and circumstances of men.
Although this privilege may seem to work in a man’s favor, ultimately, it may do the exact opposite for his soul…
The Prophet, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam, once said, “The best of you are the best to your families…” (Tirmidhi, Sahih).
And it is the best of us who will earn Paradise when we die.
So if you want to see a man of Paradise, you may not find him in the first row of prayer in the masjid. You may not even find him amongst those who’ve memorized the most Qur’an. And no, you might never find him amongst the hundreds of “callers to Islam” invited to give Islamic talks.
But if you were to ask Allah to give you just a glimpse of what earned this man such a lofty station in His eyes, perhaps this is what you’d see…
A mother quietly smiling to herself after her son has come to visit to make sure she is all right.
A son looking up to his father proudly as they walk together to the masjid.
A woman who is unwell waking to find the house clean and dinner cooked.
A daughter or son rushing to greet Daddy at the door because they know he’ll give them a warm smile and a hug.
A wife throwing her head back in laughter after her husband whispers a joke in her ear.
A man racing his wife and playfully competing with his children…
And an entire family—a mother, father, wife, sons, and daughters—blinking back tears at the mere thought of living in this world without such a man as the one Allah has given them as a son, husband, or father…
In other words, if you want to see a man of Paradise, he is the one who has, bi’idhnillaah, created for his family a paradise on earth.
This simple truth is one that nearly all married women striving for Paradise understand with respect to their roles on earth. In fact, it is one that women are not allowed to forget. Islamic books, lectures, and imams giving women advice do not give them this opportunity.
That these same books, lectures, and imams (even if unintentionally) allow many such missed opportunities to men is why I thank Allah I am a woman.
“And remind, for verily, the reminder benefits the believers.”
—Qu’ran, Al-Dhaariyaat (51:55)
As a believer who is full of faults, I myself can testify to the benefit that constant reminders about my soul have done for me on earth.
It’s terrifying to imagine how my life would be without them.
That so many of my brothers are often denied these life-altering reminders for their souls—lessons that they will certainly be held accountable for when they meet Allah— is why, truly, from the bottom of my heart, I thank God that I’m a woman.
Copyright © 2012 by Al-Walaa Publications. All Rights Reserved.
Original version published in SISTERS Magazine (September 2012)